Government waves vouchers for truck drivers and Vale Gás, but Congress keeps Petrobras in its sights

The new adjustment in gasoline and diesel prices and the proximity of the elections turned the National Congress into a “factory of ideas” to try to mitigate the effects of the fuel surge for the general consumer and for the most exposed categories.

While President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) and allies maintain pressure on Petrobras and defend the installation of a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) to investigate alleged irregularities in the company, several proposals are being processed in the two legislative houses with the promise of minimizing the impacts caused. for high prices.

O InfoMoney identified more than 20 propositions filed less than 2 years ago, with processing already started in the Chamber of Deputies, and which could be used by parliamentarians to change the current dynamics of fuel prices. They summarize, to some extent, the various ideas that circulate among the most articulate leaders of the National Congress.

The solutions presented vary significantly between the benches, but show a growing discomfort of many deputies with the price policy adopted by Petrobras – the so-called International Parity Price (PPI), although members of the federal government show less willingness to interfere directly in this device.

Many of the propositions in progress suggest changes to Law 13,303/2016 (State-owned Companies Law), Law 6,404 (Brazilian Corporations Law), Law 9,478/1997 (Petroleum Law) or Law 12,351/2010 (Pre-Salt Law) ), and in Decree-Law No. 1,578/1977 (export tax).

Some proposals deal with the creation of compensation funds for the stabilization of fuel prices, in order to attenuate the volatility observed in recent months – a path defended by most senators, who approved a bill in this sense.

This is the case of PL 1566/2022, signed by deputy Léo Moraes (Podemos-RO); PL 1152/2022, authored by deputy Mauro Nazif (PSB-RO); or PL 1472/2021, by Senator Rogério Carvalho (PT-SE), among many others.

Some projects go in the way of increasing the rates of Social Contribution on Net Income (CSLL) paid by Petrobras, such as PLP 207/2021, authored by Deputy Paulo Ramos (PDT-RJ).

There are also ideas to modify the decree that deals with export tax, creating variable ranges of rates depending on the price of oil in the international market, in order to also stimulate the refining of the commodity on national soil. This is the case of PL 1389/2022, by deputy André Figueiredo (PDT-CE). In many cases, the mechanism is used as a source of revenue to supply the price stabilization fund itself.

There are also measures that go against the current pricing policy practiced by the state-owned company and prohibit indexation, fixing, binding, matching, conversion, transfer, updating or price adjustment, based on the quotation or exchange variation of any foreign currency or quotation or variation in price indices for international products or services. This is what Deputy Nereu Crispim (PSD-RS) asks in PL 1333/2022.

The PSOL bench, in PL 3421/2021, asks that Petrobras realization prices be fixed periodically and based on internal extraction costs (lifting cost) and refining, as well as the objective of reducing volatility and promoting reasonable prices. The text also establishes that the state-owned company allocates, annually, a percentage of its revenue for research and infrastructure in renewable energy, to be approved or modified by the National Congress and the National Council for the Environment (Conama).

And another project by the PT bench (PL 4090/2021) textually states that “the public company and the mixed capital company are part of the State’s economic policy instruments”.

The matter seeks to establish that “the parent company may guide the public company and the mixed capital company to assume obligations or responsibilities, including carrying out investment projects and assuming specific operating costs/results, as well as other related activities, under different conditions those of any other private sector company operating in the same market, considering the social function of realizing the collective interest or meeting the imperative of national security expressed in the instrument of legal authorization for its creation, without the need for compensation”.

Advancing the signs

Since the beginning of the week, the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Arthur Lira (PP-AL), has been organizing meetings with party leaders in search of alternatives to curb the increase in fuel prices.

At the end of one of them, last Monday, he asked the Executive Branch to forward, as soon as possible, a provisional measure to change the State-owned Companies Law, with the aim of guaranteeing “greater synergy” between companies and the government. federal government, without going into details.

In the case of the State-Owned Companies Law, one of the demands of the political world would be to make the criteria for appointing members of the boards and directors of public companies more flexible. Another would be to change a provision that requires at least 25% of independent board members.

The objective would be to avoid what happened with the resignation of José Mauro Coelho from the command of Petrobras, who remained in office for another month after the news and still decided for a new readjustment in fuel prices – contrary to the interests of the Policy. But the measure could also lead to interference in the company’s pricing policy.

“What was approved back then, much still in the rebound of operations, of the situations that Brazil went through, transformed state-owned companies into autonomous beings with their own lives, often dissociated from the government at the moment”, he said.

The congressman also defended the elaboration of another MPV that deals with taxes related to the profits of state-owned companies and the formation of deliberative councils of these companies, and demanded greater participation of the Ministry of Economy in the discussions.

“There is an almost unanimous feeling on the part of all leaders that the Ministry of Economy and the federal government have to get involved in these discussions, participate more closely and act more closely”, continued the deputy in a brief statement to the press.

Last week, Lira had said that congressmen could discuss the idea of ​​doubling the Social Contribution on Net Income (CSLL) rate charged to Petrobras, and reverting the surplus collected “directly to the population”, also without giving details.

This referral has so far not found the necessary support from the federal government, with members fearful of possible obstacles imposed by current tax rules and, mainly, by the Electoral Law, which prohibits the distribution of benefits in the election year, except in cases of public calamity. , state of emergency or social programs authorized by law and already in budget execution in the previous year.

Solutions considered unorthodox also have greater resistance from ministers Paulo Guedes (Economy) and Adolfo Sachsida (Mines and Energy), who warn of the side effects that direct interference with Petrobras or aggressive changes in the State-owned Companies Law can bring to the company and for the economy as a whole.

new hit

For now, the Jair Bolsonaro government and the National Congress are working on an agreement to expand the Gas Aid and create aid for truck drivers – which would be incorporated into the so-called PEC of Fuels (PEC 16/2022), which is being processed in the Federal Senate and is expected to vote in plenary next week.

In the case of aid for truck drivers, the expectation is to include between 700,000 and 900,000 self-employed professionals in the category, at a floor valued at R$400, which could cool the pressure for a new strike. The way to make the measure viable would be to make an exception to the spending ceiling – a fiscal rule that limits the growth of most public expenditures to the variation of inflation.

As for Auxílio Gás, one of the ideas under discussion would be to reduce the benefit payment interval, which could go from bimonthly to monthly, or to double the amount paid to families served, which in June was R$ 53 – about half of the value of a bottle.

According to estimates by members of the federal government, spending on the two programs would not exceed R$ 5 billion. However, there are still questions about the limits of the electoral law, which motivates evaluation by the Attorney General’s Office (AGU).

Political allies understand that the idea of ​​including the changes in the PEC could reduce the risks to the Bolsonaro reelection campaign, as they would not carry the president’s fingerprints – Proposals for Amendments to the Constitution do not undergo presidential sanction after being approved by Congress .

The correct measures are more focused than those that were aired in the political world, not directly influencing the fuel prices practiced by Petrobras. Prior to them, the National Congress has already approved a complementary bill (PLP 18/2022) that sets a ceiling between 17% and 18% for the collection of Tax on the Circulation of Goods and Services (ICMS) on fuel, electricity and services. telecommunications and public transport by state governments.

The matter, which is still awaiting sanction from President Jair Bolsonaro, also reduces to zero the rates of Cide-Combustíveis and PIS/Cofins levied on gasoline until the end of 2022 – a measure that had already been taken on diesel and cooking gas.

In addition to this project, a Proposal for Amendment to the Constitution (PEC 16/2022) is being processed in the Federal Senate, which provides for financial assistance of up to R$ 29 billion by the Union to the States and Federal District that accept: 1) zero ICMS levied on diesel and liquefied petroleum gas, petroleum derivatives and natural gas; and 2) establish a rate of 12% for the ICMS levied on hydrated ethanol sold in its territory. The new rates would be effective from July 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022.

momentary relief

There is an assessment in the political world that the departure of José Mauro Coelho from the presidency of Petrobras and the measures agreed in recent days tend to reduce the pressure on the command of the state company in the short term. But the discomfort of the political class can gain strength again if the perception is that the instruments used did not have the desired effects.

For analysts at the international political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, the new command of the state-owned company may even stress the limits of fuel price policy, but it will not have tools to avoid readjustments for a long time if prices in the international market continue to rise.

“Everything suggests that some version of a fuel subsidy is likely. The economic team tends to advocate for a temporary rule that reduces fuel prices to consumers this year”, they observe.

“The government can expand the scope of PEC 16 to implement a subsidy funded by the National Treasury, which could also come with vouchers for truck drivers and for gas. In second place, [o governo] could issue a public calamity decree, which would generate a more negative reaction from the market, as it would open the door to spending beyond the fuel subsidy. On balance, the former seems more likely”, they conclude.

Despite the noise, the government is trying to rule out the possibility of more direct interference in Petrobras’ activities. “There is no intention to change the company’s pricing policy, nor to increase the taxation of its profits, as has been discussed. This would go against the tax reduction advocated by the government and would not bring results in the medium term, due to the need of nine years to raise the tax”, punctuate the analysts of XP Política.